HARVEY, La. -- Several West Bank residents living in the Woodmere Subdivision say they paid Busy Bee Restoration to repair hail damage to their homes, but after months, no work has been done.
Now Eyewitness New is taking a closer look at the laws in place to protect homeowners, as well as what residents can do to protect themselves.
Since Hurricane Katrina lawmakers have put tougher laws and regulations in place to protect homeowners against contractor fraud, but in this case those safeguards were not enough to protect West Bank residents.
Several residents experienced severe hail damage and contracted work with Busy Bee Restoration. That was in February. It has been seven months, and many residents say the only thing the have heard is excuses for why the work was never done.
'If somebody is coming in with the intend to commit fraud, it's very difficult to prevent against it,' said Jon Luther, the executive vice president for the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans.
Luther suggests that before hiring anyone, you should make sure the company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and is registered with the state and the Louisiana State Licensing Board For Contractors.
In this case, Busy Bee Restoration had done all of those things.
So what do you do if you are a homeowner who has done their homework and everything appears to checks out?
If they have registered and they are new, then immediately if you are interfacing with them you are looking for references of other work they have done,' says Luther.
According to a former employee, Busy Bee Restoration was not insured or bonded, and Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says that is a huge red flag. He said always ask for a copy of the contractor's insurance coverage before you decide to hire them.
'If they have insurance in place, it is highly unlikely that they went through that trouble and that expense just to perpetrate a fraud,' says Donelon.
'They might even produce evidence of insurance, but you need to follow up that even further because it could be expired, it could be invalidated,' agrees Luther. 'Just because they have that policy doesn't mean it is in effect.'
Donelon said folks should always beware of out-of-state contractors like Busy Bee Restoration, which is based out of Ohio.
Not only can it be difficult to get in touch with someone if there is a problem, but Donelon said they might not be aware of specific state building requirements.
If you are one of the many residents who have paid Busy Bee Restoration for work that was not done, you are asked to contact the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office, as well as the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.
Residents can also contact other residents who have fallen victim to Busy Bee Restoration at firstname.lastname@example.org